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Probate and creating an estate plan

Some Florida residents who are planning for the future of their assets might want to avoid having their estates go through probate. One way to do this is by making heirs the co-owners of assets. However, the disadvantage here is that the co-owner also has access to those assets while the estate owner is still alive.

Another method is to use transfer-on-death provisions. However, many experts agree that the best way to avoid probate is with a revocable trust. Assets placed in this kind of trust can be distributed without having to go through probate.

Probate is not necessarily a bad thing. Any estate that does not have provisions in place to avoid probate must go through the process, but it does not have to be time-consuming. Whether or not a person has prepared a will makes a significant difference. That's because a will names an executor to manage the estate and says what should happen to the person's assets. Without a will, assets are distributed according to state law.

Experts say that a bigger danger than probate is conflict between heirs. In some cases, such as if a person leaves everything to a caregiver of just a few months, may warrant litigation. However, most conflicts are old family issues playing out. Explaining why assets were distributed a certain way may help.

There are other important elements of an estate plan besides a will or trust. People might also want to make plans in case they become incapacitated. Powers of attorney can appoint an agent to make health care and financial decisions on the grantor's behalf. It is important to choose people for these positions carefully and to talk to them about wishes for end-of-life care and finances. Legal counsel could guide an estate owner through the process.

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